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BROOKFIELD Grant could cover blighted site demo

August 9, 2018

BROOKFIELD — The town hopes to use grant money to demolish a former dry cleaners that is obstructing efforts to rejuvenate the downtown.

The condemned building at 20 Station Road — near the Mobil gas station at the Four Corners — sticks out in an area the town is trying to revitalize by adding housing, shops and restaurants. Town officials hope the property could be turned into a parking lot in a neighborhood that sorely needs it.

But chemicals from the business have seeped into the bedrock of the property, making it impossible to clean up.

The town recently spent $3.5 million to add sidewalks and other amenities downtown and is planning a similar $2 million project to extend the streetscape.

First Selectman Steve Dunn said the blight has interfered with one nearby property owner’s plans to sell his commercial building.

“[The owner] has had three buyers say, ‘I really don’t want to be on this street with that mess there,’” Dunn told the Board of Finance at its recent meeting.

This is among the reasons Dunn met with state officials this week to ask permission to tear down the building using the remaining money from a grant the town received for the property.

As part of a $6.9 million wave of funding to remediate brownfields across Connecticut, the state Department of Economic and Community Development granted the town $145,000 last year to study the extent of the contamination.

But investigators found there was no method to clean up the chemicals that had bored into the ground. The chemicals are expected to dissipate over time, officials have said.

The town is waiting to hear from the the state on whether the remaining $50,000 from the grant can be used for demolition.

The local Blight Committee has the authority to demolish buildings that are “unfit for human habitation” under its ordinance.

The 2.3-acre property includes a 4,700-square-foot commercial and residential building, which served as a dry cleaning business during the 1960s and 1970s. The building was condemned in 2011.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection also wants the town to test surrounding properties to see whether the contaminants affected their basements or wells.

“That’s usually not outrageously expensive and it’s probably a good thing to do,” Dunn said at the meeting.

In April Dunn said the town planned to ask the property owners to tear down the building themselves. But demolition could be too expensive for the owners because of the asbestos and contamination on the property, he said.

“The owners of the property would have no problem with us knocking that down for free for them and we really want to get that knocked down,” he said.

Dunn hopes the land could eventually be turned into a parking lot by the owners for residents shopping or dining downtown.

“It gets really complicated with all these issues, but we’re still pursuing that because we’re going to need that parking,” he said.

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